DENVER – Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) voted to confirm Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary on Tuesday, setting aside the concerns of a Colorado lawmaker who had objected to Hagel’s nomination because of the Defense nominee’s past support for federal authority to condemn ranches in Colorado to expand a military bombing range.
State Senator Larry Crowder sent a letter to Udall earlier in the confirmation process, asking Colorado’s senior Senator to vote against Hagel on the basis of his support for Pinon Canyon expansion.
“The next Defense Secretary could very likely have the final say on a controversial proposal to dramatically enlarge the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) in Southeast Colorado,” state Senator Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) wrote to U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats. “I find Mr. Hagel’s record of support for unconditional expansion, and opposition to the rights of landowners troubling, and ask that you vote against his confirmation.”
Crowder’s letter referred to a 2007 vote then-Senator Hagel cast against a measure authored by then-Senator Ken Salazar barring the federal government from expanding the nearly 250,000 acre military installation. Salazar’s amendment was approved by a narrow 47-45 margin, but the issue remains contentious.
At no publicly-known point in the confimation process has either Udall or Hagel addressed the Pinon Canyon question.
Parochial issues did not interfere with Hagel’s nomination, however. The committee approved the nomination on a party line vote, fowarding Hagel’s nomination to the full Senate after a feisty hearing on Tuesday.
Before casting an “aye” vote for Hagel, Udall said that an “enduring case” for Hagel’s nomination had made during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Udall has commended Hagel for his handling of his nomination hearing before the Senate committee.
Most analysts, however, have taken a sharply different view of Hagel’s performance before the Armed Services panel, with commentators from both perspectives criticizing the former Nebraska lawmaker for poor preparation and incoherent explanations.
Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was perhaps most blunt, telling NBC’s Meet the Press that Hagel “seemed unimpressive and unprepared on the questions that quite frankly he knew was coming.”
Colorado’s other Senator, Michael Bennet, has yet to commit on the Hagel nomination.